For The Coffee House owner Mike Shriner, wearing a mask is equivalent to wearing a seatbelt or taking off shoes at a friends house. It’s about safety and respect.
On Sept. 14, the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County extended the mask mandate and updated their Directive Health Measures.
However, while the rest of the state is fully moving into phase four of Nebraska’s COVID-19 response, Lancaster County still plans to implement aspects of phase three until Oct. 31, according to the DHMs provided by the state.
The DHMs include restrictions on capacities in restaurants, bars and other gathering places and maintaining social distancing while in these establishments. It also includes the mask mandate. All other Nebraska counties have removed any restrictions on capacities within establishments excluding large indoor and outdoor gatherings and recommend face masks and social distancing.
The mask mandate has been extended to Oct. 31 by Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and requires all those 5 years old and older to wear a mask while indoors and maintain a social distance of 6 feet at least with a few exceptions including when sitting down to eat at restaurants.
Prior to the mandate, Shriner said that while the coffee shop didn’t require masks, he strongly encouraged it for both employees and customers. And much like most other businesses, his business has not only been financially affected by the pandemic itself, but also by the mandate.
“I think that there are a lot of people who are still coming into the store, but I think there’s still a lot of people who don’t want to come in because of [the mandate],” Shriner said.
The Coffee House is not the only business in Lincoln that is struggling with the outcomes of the DHMs and mask mandates.
On Sept. 10, a group of more than 20 Lincoln businesses filed a class action lawsuit suing the city of Lincoln in regard to the DHMs. Berry Law Firm, the law agency representing these businesses, said in a press release on the day of the filing that the mandates resulted in economic damage for Lincoln businesses. These businesses are seeking financial payment for these damages.
According to Shriner, he was approached by several different individuals to join the class action, but declined to do so. Shriner said that the city is doing the best it can and that it’s pointless to sue over masks.
“They have to make choices for the greater good,” he said. “So I’m not going to join a lawsuit that stretches our city’s resources even further.”
Just 15 miles northeast from Lincoln, gas station and convenience store Mammoth Station strongly encourages the use of masks, but does not refuse service, despite falling within Lancaster County’s area. General Manager and Marketing Director Karan Ranson said that it was a business decision.
“If we see someone come up to the door, and they’re walking slowly and they see the mask sign, they’ll turn around and go back to their car,” she said. “But we’ll wave them back in.”
Because of the wide variety of ages that enter the convenience store Ranson said they were one of the first businesses to implement the plexiglass around the cash registers. Mammoth Station also has several signs encouraging the use of masks and sell masks made by a local woman.
“We just try to do what’s right for the public,” she said.
The Coffee House has also made several accommodations to continue to serve its customer base including outdoor seating, curbside pickup and even delivery, Shriner said. They also have reconfigured the store for social distancing purposes.
“We’ve done everything short of beg, you know, sit on the street and pull people into our store to get an order and then we’ve tried a lot of different things,” Shriner said. “It’s been a learning experience.”
Shriner said he is more than willing to adapt to these restrictions if it means The Coffee House can remain open for business.
“We have to wear helmets on motorcycles, we have to take precautions where we cross the street,” he said. “What’s one more rule if it’s going to protect the greater good and keep businesses open.”